WESLACO, RGV – A roundtable discussion on flood mitigation and drainage held a week ago in Weslaco could end up being one of the most consequential events in the Rio Grande Valley this year.

The in-depth discussion took place at the offices of Hidalgo County Precinct One, with the $400 million Raymondville Drain project the top issue.

Among those present were U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, U.S. Section Commissioner for the International Boundary & Water Commission Jayne Harkins, Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez, Willacy County Judge Aurelio Guerra, Mercedes Mayor Henry Hinojosa, Hidalgo County Commissioners David Fuentes and Ellie Torres, and Hidalgo County Drainage Director Raul Sesin.

Sen. Cornyn was the most senior figure present. After listening to elected officials, drainage experts, community leaders and farmers, Cornyn said he would act on three fronts: 

  • To seek congressional authorization for federal dollars to go towards construction of the Raymondville Drain , the Valley’s No. 1 flood control project;
  • To bring Texas Transportation Commission Chairman J. Bruce Bugg, Jr., to the Valley to discuss flood control on the on and off ramps of Expressway 83;
  • To secure additional monies for the cash-strapped International Boundary & Water Commission.

The above podcast includes the raw audio from the roundtable discussion and a news conference that followed.

Here are some of the remarks Judge Cortez made at the news conference:

“Today has been a very special day. I invited Senator Cornyn to come down here and he said ‘yes.’ I invited him because the Rio Grande Valley, one of the fastest growing areas, is, I think, going to be the pride of Texas very soon. But, we have many needs. Among the things we wanted to discuss today, with a lot of time spent around drainage issues… we wanted to talk about international trade, we also wanted to talk about nature tourism, we also wanted to talk about poverty.

“Why are all those topics inter-related with one another? Because we all want a better quality of life for ourselves. We are one of the fastest-growing areas in Texas and certainly the United States. We want a road to prosperity, not a road to poverty. Thirty-eight percent of the people that live in the Rio Grande Valley, or at least in our county, are in poverty. When you start thinking that the rate in the U.S. is less, that the rate in Texas is less, then you say, Houston, We Have a Problem.

“Why is drainage an economic issue also? Because not only does it cause misery to the people that are touched by it, it is also bad for the economy. We heard from farmers today, just how impactful it is to them.

“Well, the Rio Grande Valley and Hidalgo County and cities found in our county are trying to do their job. We are putting our money into solving this problem. But there is just not enough money, locally, for us to do that. We need the help of the federal government and others to do that. What better person to call than one of the most senior members of the Senate?”

Editor’s Note: Soon after the roundtable discussion on flood mitigation and drainage took place, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn and Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez staged a roundtable discussion on international trade. This took place at Ci Logistics’ cotton warehouse in Weslaco. The Rio Grande Guardian will post the raw audio from that discussion in its next edition.